(UPDATED COVERAGE Oct. 24) Fresh cilantro from the Mexican state of Puebla is likely the cause of cyclospora parasite infections in recent months in Texas, according to the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention — and not from the Mexican lettuce mix linked to outbreaks in Nebraska and Iowa at the same time.
Altogether, 643 people in 25 states this summer became sick with cyclospora.
The CDC did not name a company or grower of the cilantro, only that cyclospora cases in Texas were not related to foodservice salad mixes from Taylor Farms de Mexico. The Taylor Farms salad mixes are still believed to be the cause of cyclospora infections in Iowa and Nebraska, according to the CDC report.
Taylor Farms officials cooperated with the Food and Drug Administration this summer and posted updates about the outbreak linked to their products on their company website. They closed the Mexico facility 2 1/2 weeks before receiving the all-clear to resume operations. Tests did not return any positive results for cyclospora at the facility or in the fields.
During other foodborne outbreak investigations this year, CDC officials said the agency does not reveal the identities of companies whose products are linked to outbreaks. The officials said those disclosures are left to the FDA.
Spokeswoman Juli Putnam said the FDA was still working with Mexican officials as of Oct. 24 to determine if there is a common farm or growing area in the Mexican state of Puebla that could have provided fresh cilantro to the three restaurants and grocery store that have solid links to the outbreak clusters in Texas.
“As a result of this investigation, FDA has increased its surveillance efforts on cilantro products exported to the U.S. from Mexico,” Putnam said.
The records available to FDA for the traceback were bills of lading, invoices and purchase orders, said spokseman Doug Karas. Case-level traceability labels were apparently not used.
“Reported cases of cyclosporiasis in the U.S. have returned to baseline levels; therefore, it is likely that the outbreaks identified during June-August 2013 have ended. The number of reports of persons with illness increased beginning in June and returned to baseline in mid-to-late August,” according to the CDC update.
No deaths were linked to the outbreaks, but 45 people were admitted to hospitals. Texas had the most illnesses of any state with 278 reported.
The CDC reported epidemiologic and traceback investigations at three restaurants and one grocery store in Texas showed multiple, unrelated people became ill. The common denominator was fresh cilantro traced to Puebla, Mexico, CDC reported.